WASHINGTON—AFT President Randi Weingarten, Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper, Ohio Nurses Association CEO Kelly Trautner and Texas AFT President Zeph Capo joined El Paso AFT President Ross Moore and Socorro AFT President Veronica Hernandez in releasing the following statement after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left 29 people dead and dozens more injured over the weekend:
“We are at a tipping point in America. In a country that has represented tolerance and hope for so many, the 250 shootings this year - on top of so many more in recent memory - have shown no place, not schools, houses of faith, recreational centers, or places where we shop and meet, is safe from hate in the form of a bullet from a gun. Who will be the next victims of hate crimes and gun violence? Haven’t we lost enough innocent souls? Our communities are being terrorized, stoked by words of hatred and division from none other than the president himself. We are a nation in distress, and we must come together to repair what has been broken.
“Ninety-seven percent of Americans support stronger background check laws. Year after year, the data tells us the same thing: Stronger gun safety laws lead to fewer gun violence deaths, yet our hearts tell us that we must do more as the people responsible for caring for others in our community. We must stand up to this cruelty and defend our democracy by getting to know our neighbors and working toward a safer and more just society.
“It is time to name those who stand in the way of that safety: those who put people in harm’s way; those who incite hatred and violence with their reckless words and demonization of immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, women, the LGBTQ community; and anyone who stands united for a more diverse, pluralistic and accepting world. Their actions are complicit here, and their failure to move on gun safety measures is tacit acceptance of the danger Americans face from gun violence, and the terrorism of white supremacy that threatens the very ideals of this nation. This cannot be the new normal. We are better than this.”
“Newtown. Parkland. Columbine. San Bernardino. Las Vegas. Orlando. Pittsburgh. And now El Paso and Dayton. The list seems never-ending. We have buried our students and co-workers. We have grieved for our families, our members, our communities. We have lobbied and prayed and marched. Every elected official in this country takes an oath to protect and defend its people, but too many of them have fallen down on the job. We demand they do better.”
“The safety and well-being of our way of life is in jeopardy. With mass shootings in America at a 40-year high, we can no longer deny that gun violence is a public health emergency. The time for inaction has long passed. As the people who pick up the pieces of far too much of this hatred and destruction, we’re demanding action on commonsense gun reform, and on the stoking of division that breeds violence among us.”
“We stand in furious defiance of the belief that nothing can change. We will continue to demand that thoughts and prayers are met with transformative policy and change, and we will hold accountable every single legislator who stands in the way. As we continue this urgent and difficult conversation on how we define ourselves as Americans, we must recommit to the fundamental beliefs of decency and humanity that we hope to teach our children.”
“As educators and students in El Paso head back to school in the coming weeks, we will do everything we can to make our El Paso public schools safe and welcoming sanctuaries, and places that teach tolerance and build our community.”
“This community is strong. It will heal, and it will rebuild. And in doing so, it will come together to remind us that hope is stronger than fear; love is stronger than hate; and that in America, our schools and our children sit at the center of our communities. It is there we can teach tolerance, and educate the next generation of activists who will fight for a safer and more inclusive country.”
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.